Archives for category: Urban Millennium

I know that I’m supposed to, I know that I want to, but treatment of the Urban Millennium I promised a few weeks ago will need to wait.  Maybe I’ll get to it this New Year’s Day weekend.  But here’s something that at least obliquely addresses Urban Millennium.

Last month the New York Times featured Emily Badger’s article on the American rural vote in our recent election.  You will also find interesting bits such as “in 1920, for the first time, the Census Bureau counted more people living in urbanized America than in the countryside. This hasn’t been a rural nation ever since.”  This gives an idea of what is meant by the Urban Millennium.

There’s more great bits of information about urbanized America in the context of what some see as a frustrating election cycle that minimized voting power of urban Americans.  Check it out.

populous states subsidize less populous ones, which receive more resources than the tax dollars they send to Washington”


my view on Fairbanks one rainy Chicago day a few years ago


Yesterday morning several Salvation Army leaders gathered in the first floor front room of 2753 Arsenal.  For Gail and me, that’s a two minute walk from our home.  For others it meant a few hours of driving from Peoria, Chicago, Kansas City.

Urbana Temple Houses

This is vintage (2009).  The first promo material put together by Steve Diaz and John Aho.  Temple Houses have grown and developed but it all started with this.

We came together to share about the experience of life together in the missional community we call Temple Houses.  TH is one part of the Urban Mission Center based in St Louis.  The Center prepares missional leaders for the Urban Millennium.  This takes place in opportunities for formation here in our St Louis Benton Park West neighborhood.  Gail and Sara are also part of a team developing the distance-learning component for Olivet Nazarene University‘s urban ministry program.

Yesterday inaugurated the Center’s first innovators forum.  We expected five or six individuals.  17 came together for six hours of presentation and discussion.

With coffee and John’s Donuts Sara started with a virtual tour of Benton Park West neighborhood. She used the six postures for missional living, a model Jon Huckins has taught us and found in his book Thin Places.  Then, questions about the nuts and bolts of creating and sustaining our particular Temple House community.  Sara did a fine job of leading us through the day, and feeding us; she makes a great chili.

Gail and I walked home and talked.  What next?  We agreed that it will be seen in Peoria, Chicago, Kansas City and other cities as God’s people find innovative ways to join His mission in this amazing Urban Millennium.

So, what is the Urban Millennium?

school stalls

I’ve seen this before.

The issue really isn’t the buildings.  It’s “decades of declining enrollment … as students have left for the suburbs and charter schools”.  St Louis is not unique.  More famously, Detroit has been going through this.  And other American cities.  At its peak in 1967 St Louis public school enrollment was 115,543.  Current enrollment is 26,000.  A 77% drop.

Elisa Crouch’s St Louis Post-Dispatch article reports that 45 buildings have been closed in the last 10 years leaving 74 in use.

St Louis hopes to interest buyers to take and repurpose some of these closed school buildings.

With the superiority of naval air power came the end of battleships.  Streaming has replaced the phonograph.  Obsolescence is part of humanity’s modern project.  Urban systems and infrastructures have a rough time dealing with obsolescence.  What to do with 21 old buildings?


Today a New York Times article reports on what appears to be a revival of Asbury Park NJ.  So you can say that this blog is about the resurrection of cities.

The word ‘revival’ sounds religious, doesn’t it?  Bruce Springsteen appears to be the prophet, evangelist for the Asbury Park revival.

This summer, Mr. Springsteen took note of the city’s changing fortunes during a performance at Asbury’s Wonder Bar. As he introduced another song, “Atlantic City,” he said, “But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” He paused for a moment, before continuing, “Maybe Asbury Park is back?” — to cheers from the crowd.

The Times noted The Boss’ My City of Ruins.  NYT call it a dirge.  To me it sounds like an urban prophet’s prayer.  Is it a prophecy that is now coming to pass?

Half ways through the Times’ article it dawned that the Salvation Army is in Asbury Park.  That to Salvation Army people it is a prominent presence.  The Asbury Park Corps is a place with history, tradition, staying power.  Officer friends have served there.  Visit its website.  You’ll see a listing of activities, services, photos of the currently assigned Officers.

Does the Army have a prophetic voice in Asbury Park?

Prophets of the OT cried out and cried over deserted places and hearts.  Prophets also gave words of promise and hope.

A developer is breathing life into old bones as renovation is taking place of a building, “a long vacant Salvation Army residence hall into a chic, 110-room hotel with a rooftop event space”.


The Salvation Army continues to have staying power in some tough urban places.  Our friends Majors Bill and Sue Dunigan (check their Servant Corps Facebook) lead a missional community, the Servant Corps in Camden NJ,  80 miles west of Asbury Park.  I believe that the Servant Corps, like our St Louis Temple Houses, represents new life breathed into the bones of an organization, a movement.  A 150 year old movement.

It’s great to see old buildings with cleaned up bricks and new purpose.  But it’s even greater to see life breathed into a movement.  And the Army still needs more of this breath of renewal.

Here in St Louis two old Salvation Army buildings were not sold to developers.  We kept them.  And the Army itself became a developer. We renovated the Railton Residence and the former Harbor Light (that once was the Father Dunne Newsboy Home) into the 3010 Apartments.

They are now modern, attractive places that continue to serve the people we have always kept our commitment to serve.

But the Army in St Louis is now a community developer.  Yes, we are bringers of salvation to individuals.  But now we also bring salvation to communities and to a city.

Old Salvation Army buildings.

The Salvation Army building in my hometown is now serving another purpose.  Last time I stopped in to see the Duluth Citadel built in 1929 it was looking good and being used as a rental hall for social events.  Perhaps hosting a singer of songs.

One last story.

My first corps appointment was to Gary IN during the early 1980s when US Steel dramatically reduced its workforce.  The result was steelworkers out of a job living in their cars.  Families appearing at the Salvation Army for food and utility assistance.

I also remember teen boys showing up every Friday night for basketball in our little gym.  It got so that I had to schedule shifts to share the gym.  The growing crowd of young men would patiently wait along the sidelines for their turn.  They didn’t have many other options.  We had the best show in town.

One group of guys were Springsteen disciples.  Morgan, Steve, Fish.  They introduced me to The Boss.  Born In the USA.

Bruce Springsteen.  Still crying out over cities.  Still preaching resurrection.

Do people tend to live in neighborhoods with those like themselves?


But we may not realize that this tendency creates other dynamics. For instance, the economic segregation of Americans.

The Washington Post reports on a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto showing that the wealthy increasingly “isolate and wall themselves off from the less well-to-do’ in America’s cities.  Which cities are at the top of this self isolation-by-income category?

The least economically segregated cities?

Here is the full article by Emily Badger on the work of Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander.

Florida and Mellander note one particular result of this urban economic segregation –

While there have always been affluent neighborhoods, gated enclaves, and fabled bastions of wealth like Newport, East Hampton, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, and Grosse Pointe, the people who cut the lawns, cooked and served the meals, and fixed the plumbing in their big houses used to live nearby—close enough to vote for the same councilors, judges, aldermen, and members of the board of education. That is less and less the case today.

There is a new distance being created between urban dwellers in our largest cities.  Not only physical but in the socio-political worlds.  It means less sharing.  It must also certainly mean a lessened sense of a common good.

What we are now seeing more and more in the Urban Millennium are urban dwellers “experiencing the very same city in very different ways.”

The Urban Millennium is characterized by dramatic changes in density,
diversity and wealth disparity.  And one indication that the UM has arrived
in these United States is seen in recent statistics from the National
Center for Education Statistics.

White students of non-Hispanic descent have for over a century accounted for the majority in public elementary schools.  This has changed.  Now non-white students comprise the majority.

Story from the Associated Press.

I am feeling like one of those squirrels running around here before the snow falls.  This morning I looked to my left as I ran on Argonne in Kirkwood.  Seven squirrels in one front yard.  That’s a lot of squirrels.

Running, but also because as I clean email tonight I am finding what I’ve saved.  Not acorns but articles.  Such as 5 Key Themes Emerging From the ‘New Science of Cities’, in The Atlantic’s Citylab of September 19.  What is recent research revealing about “the dynamic behavior of cities”?  The research is based on Jane Jacob‘s insights of over 50 years ago how understanding “the emerging sciences of ‘organized complexity'” could help urban planning.

Jane Jacobs

For instance, the wealth of a city grows from its ‘small change’:  when humans are able to connect in the most unassuming of encounters on sidewalks and other public spaces.  And cities underperform when people are excluded, isolated or restricted.

Worth the quick read.  Check it out.

During the past two weeks I have been having a Mark Twain experience.

Punch, Brothers, Punch! describes Mark Twain’s experience of an ear-worm.  In the newspaper he happens to read a jingle –

Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!


Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

He cannot get it out of his head. It tortures him for days.  Freedom comes only when he shares it with a friend, who then infected is also doomed until …

You hear some simple tune, and then you can’t stop it in your head.  Last year visiting Turkey with a group of friends it was the song Istanbul (Not Constantinople).   Andrew Shiels, you know what I mean.

For several days now a sentence scrolls into my consciousness.  Not banal, if anything it’s one that challenges me.

The church is the place where Jesus Christ’s taking form is proclaimed and where it happens.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ends the second chapter of his Ethics with this statement.  It distills the preceding 26 pages in which Bonhoeffer develops an understanding of the role ethics plays in forming those human beings who follow Jesus Christ.

Several pages earlier he writes –

We can and should speak not about what the good is, can be, or should be for each and every time, but about how Christ may take form among us today and here.

The current top news item bringing anxiety to us this week in the USA deals with a movement of individuals who want to shape the world into their preferred future.

It is because they have lost hope about being able to have a place in this world.  They perceive the present world’s economic, socio-political and technological power out of their hands.  So, they turn to religion.  A religion which will overcome, take over and then form a world to its vision.  Those who oppose are dealt with violently.

It’s not an ear-worm but it does haunt me, Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums. Read it. It comes humming into my memory as I read news of the Western world’s campaign gearing up now in the land of Abraham. Davis’ prophetic analysis of a world of growing disparities seems to form a counterpoint to our growing awareness that all is not well with all.

Just before Bonhoeffer’s statement, that Christ is formed in the church to be proclaimed and found in the church, he gives a disclaimer for the ethics about to be presented. That it “will not develop a program for the formation of the Western world.”

But it will speak of how the form of Christ takes form in this Western world.

Bonhoeffer then explains how this fine distinction must prevent the church from a casuistic or an abstract formation for itself or for a place it has no business telling what its business is:  the world.

As I said, I am still working at grasping the full value of Bonhoeffer’s challenging statement.  And as I know that the claims on the world by a violent movement alarm us in the USA, so too should any claims we may hear about a world claimed as if it were some Christian trophy. Formed by those who make such claims.



Gail says she saw the trailer for the new RoboCop directed by Brazilian filmaker José Padilha.  She wasn’t impressed.  Me?  I’m a sucker for these urban dystopian themed shows.  The 1987 RoboCop?  Loved it.  An urban epic like The WarriorsWarriors

Here’s Manohla Dargis’ NY Times RoboCop review.  He tells us that an update of “RoboCop was always going to be tough, if for no other reason than the original’s irony, and its future-shock visions have become today’s reality, from the downfall of Detroit to the embrace of privatization, the use of high-tech artificial limbs and the triumph of propaganda over public discourse.”

Today’s reality.  If you spend time today in some American cities you just might accept the Dargis analysis.

Here’s more stuff you’ll enjoy at RoboCop Wiki.


The Detroit Free Press relayed a 24/7 Wall St. blog post reporting Detroit is on the list of US cities where people now drive less.

According to a study by Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the growth in households without a vehicle provides evidence that Americans are less dependent on cars than in the past. Sivak’s research also indicates that, per capita, Americans own fewer vehicles, drive fewer miles, and consume less fuel. While the number of households without a car rose nationwide, from 8.7% in 2007 to 9.2% in 2012, figures by city differ dramatically.

Which American cities have the highest numbers using public transportation, walking?  In the Midwest:  Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee rank highest.  Conspicuously absent from the list:  cities from the South.  New York City:  over half of NYC households do not own an automobile.

What’s fueling this trend?  Urban layout, walkability and access to quality public transportation.  Important factors in cities becoming less motorized.

detroit traffic

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